Reuters

A dire slump threatens to send poor, unemployed migrants back to the countryside in search of work.

Some 90 million Indians have migrated from from farms to cities in the last 10 years, part of a global tide of urbanization that has helped lift many developing nations out of poverty. But a dire slump in the Indian economy is threatening to reverse the tide, and send poor, unemployed migrants back to the countryside in search of work.

India's Crisil Research projects that 12 million people will return to low-productivity farm jobs by 2019 because of a lack of economic opportunities in the manufacturing sector, unless the government carries out long-debated labor market reforms and improves crucial infrastructure. The country has moved about a quarter billion people to cities in the last forty years, but much of its projected economic growth is reliant on the trend accelerating over the coming decades.

Great expectations.UN Source: World Urbanization Prospects
 

India’s economic growth sank to a decade-low 5 percent in 2013, stung by inflation, slowing global demand and persistent infrastructure woes. Outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh said on Jan. 8 that growth is unlikely to pick up in the current fiscal year. The ruling Congress Party's flagship rural jobs program—which guarantees unskilled work for rural laborers at the cost of about $5.5 billion a year—may also be making city life a bit less attractive.

Not everyone agrees that the economic downturn will send recent urban migrants back to the farm. Care Ratings chief economist Madan Sabnavis told the Financial Express that the growing services sector will absorb excess labor in manufacturing. And World Bank economist Tara Vishwanath has found that much of India's urbanization will actually take place in suburban areas at the edges of India’s megacities like Mumbai and Delhi.

This post originally appeared on Quartz. More from our partner site:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  3. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  4. a photo of a BYD-built electric bus.
    Transportation

    A Car-Centric City Makes a Bid for a Better Bus System

    Indianapolis is set to unveil a potentially transformative all-electric bus rapid transit line, along with a host of major public transportation upgrades.

  5. Life

    How Bad Is It to Let Your Cat Outside?

    Your adorable house cat is also a ruthless predator. A conservation biologist makes the case for keeping cats indoors, or at least on leashes.

×